Still Crazy, After All These Months

Trump's world

Fourteen months ago, the Trump administration took office. The American electorate selected a novice politician as their executive leader. This leader extolled his business acumen, his management skills, his abilities to only hire “the best people”. The voters of this nation, having grown used to the presence of this actor from his television reality show, ignored the baggage that he brought to this office. Baggage of multiple business bankruptcies. Baggage of two failed marriages, and the baggage of a reputation for womanizing. Baggage of a history of making money through the expedient act of not paying local craftsmen for their honest work. Baggage of sponsoring a bogus real estate course offering expectations of great insights from the master developer, only to instead offer bait and switch courses where for a few thousand dollars more, course participants could get the next level of knowledge. Baggage of over 3,500 lawsuits filed against Donald Trump and his affiliated companies over the course of his career. Baggage of egregious racist attitudes exemplified by his crusades against the falsely convicted Central Park 5 defendants and his outrageous birther claims against President Obama. Still. He was elected as President of the United States despite this pitiful record.

So why is it now, fourteen months later, do I have the feeling that I’m revisiting a 1930’s movie with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, only instead of “Hey, let’s put on a show!”, I believe that the rank amateurs in this administration decided, “Hey, let’s put on a Federal Government !” I can see the facades of the scenery being constructed for the big musical numbers, err, the big cabinet meetings that is, with the cheesy dialogue coming from the cabinet members pouring out laud and honor upon he who must not be criticized. Why is it that this supposed genius at personnel management managed to hire people better suited for roles as parking valets than as government managers?

I hear his supporters keep claiming that he’s accomplished so much, and all of the media and coastal elites just keep harping on the same old things, can’t get over the fact that Hillary lost, just shut up and take it. OK. Fine. Hillary lost. Apparently enough voters from enough states wallowing in the echo chamber of social media (soaking in a Russian dressing marinade) selected this candidate to enable him to succeed in the electoral college. I’ve seen all of the graphics showing that Trump won the overwhelming amount of land area and the county count. Guess what? This nation has turned into an urban nation, and it is in the urban centers that the repudiation of Donald Trump was at its strongest. Only the Electoral College was in favor of Donald Trump.

As far as Donald Trump’s incessant claims that his administration has accomplished the most of any first term President in his first year, I realize once more that he lives in the delusional world of his own making. I count his successes in his first year at exactly two – first, the nomination of Neil Gorsuch and his confirmation by the Senate, second, the extremely tortuous path to an upper class and corporate tax cut foisted upon the American public late in 2017. What are some of his failures in his first year as he played his role as President?

  1. Repeal and Replace. Easiest thing in the world (who knew that health care was so hard!).
  2. Witch hunt! Seems to me that the witch hunt is getting closer and closer to unraveling the webs of deceit and deception surrounding the unnatural ties between Trump and Russian influence and money. We shall see what we shall see.
  3. Infrastructure week 1. Infrastructure week 2. In what should have been the easiest sell in the history of Presidential politics, can anyone enunciate what infrastructure policy Trump is advocating and how that is going to restore the nation to greatness?
  4. Let’s all sing like the birdies sing. Tweet, tweet tweet, tweet tweet. Enough said.
  5. I only hire the best people. Yeah, the best people who manage to trip all over themselves in justifying exorbitant plane fares (in first class I don’t get yelled at by the people affected by my policies), the people who can’t figure out how to comply with instructions on how to fill out forms for security clearances, people who beat their spouses and can’t get security clearances but still remain on the job until their actions get unwanted press. I can keep on going as long as you have patience to read examples of incompetence, but still I think the Mooch has the unbeatable record of being fired before he actually took over a position within this administration. I don’t know how you can ever top this as a signal accomplishment of this totally incompetent President.
  6. There’s good people on both sides. Ah yes, the moral equivalence proposition that neo-Nazis who paraded down the streets of Charlottesville in their khakis and polos carrying their tiki torches and chanting anti-Semitic slogans were just as good as those who marched to protest the neo-Nazis. And yes, I am aware that there were antifa provocateurs who provoked attacks from the neo’s. But they didn’t drive cars through crowds of protestors, mowing down victims mindlessly.
  7. Diplomats? We don’t need no steenkin’ diplomats. While there is optimism that the Korean peninsula is not going to become a giant ball of nuclear flame, the American people (and the rest of the world) greatly prefer the use of diplomacy with an adequately staffed State Department to the vagaries of an adult with ADHD who decides on the spur of the moment to accept a summit invitation. What does it say when the leader of North Korea exhibits more maturity than the President of the United States? Welcome to our world.

I know that none of these arguments are going to sway those who are true believers in the complete imbecile now occupying the office of the President. I also know that the true believer who occupies the office of the Vice President is perhaps more dangerous, since he is an ideologue, and has demonstrated competence at government administration. The Vice President’s ideology is putrid, and his pronouncements would have the institution of a theocracy as one of his highest priorities. For all of Donald Trump’s failings, theocratic leanings are not one of them. Donald Trump has played the Christian card for all of the benefits he could get, being himself a card-carrying hypocrite. So there is danger in forcing the removal of this President, should the opportunity present itself. No, what I am doing is using whatever power I have in my words to keep shouting to the world how Donald Trump’s incompetence and narcissism is placing the security of the world at risk. And once more emphasizing to the American public that it is not a good idea to elect charlatans to the highest office in our land. Not that they care. Last time I checked, the Kardashian’s are still trending on social media. And of course, that is our highest priority, right?

Where Have All The Christians Gone?

Long time passing.

The demise of Christianity was declared in 2018, and the declaration was made by the current generation of Evangelical Christian leaders who assumed the mantle of leadership from their fathers. Jerry Falwell Jr. of Liberty University, tweeted the following: “Jesus said love our neighbors as ourselves but never told Caesar how to run Rome – he never said Roman soldiers should turn the other cheek in battle or that Caesar should allow all the barbarians to be Roman citizens or that Caesar should tax the rich to help poor. That’s our job.” This was in response to Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, who stated in the mulligan interview, “Evangelical Christians were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists. And I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.”

So the last bastion of Evangelical Christianity, having sold its soul literally to the devil in order to accomplish its legislative and judicial agendas, now has openly admitted its hypocrisy against following the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament. You know, all of that squishy liberal stuff about turning the other cheek, and overturning the moneychanger’s tables in the temple, and dining with tax collectors and prostitutes. Well, at least on that last count, Donald Trump has shown that he is more than willing to share space with a prostitute, and even to provide recompense for silence. I guess he turned the other cheek in order to have it paddled with the copy of Forbes.

For those of us who have wandered in the wilderness of the mainline Protestant churches, we have long awaited an exposition like this from the holier than thou crowd. I would gloat at the naked display of hypocrisy, but that would seem too much like hubris, i.e. pride, and you know, that is one of the seven deadly sins. But for us, it has long been apparent that actual Christian culture left the building a long time ago. Ironically, our current President Donald Trump formed whatever religious beliefs he has under the tutelage of the originator of the prosperity gospel, Norman Vincent Peale. The Power of Positive Thinking is the progenitor of the prosperity gospel movement, where worth is measured by the bank account rather than by beliefs in the gospel. This bastardization of the biblical message has grown by leaps and bounds over the subsequent decades, and now, wrapped in its mantle of praise bands and lyrics to hymns displayed on screens inside of modernistic sanctuaries, has completed a hostile takeover of the message of the gospel. Combine this with those who discern prophetic messages about the ascension of Donald Trump from Youtube videos, it completes the surrealistic transformation of the evangelical wing of the Christian church.

Back in the late 1970’s, there was serious discussion about whether Ronald Reagan would be accepted by Christians since he was “DIVORCED”. The answer was clear, divorce was no longer a barrier to electoral success. Still, the issue of marital fidelity consumed the Evangelical crowd, so much so that when President Clinton had his infamous encounter with the blue dress, the response from the Evangelical community was not whether Bill Clinton deserved impeachment, but whether he deserved to be drawn before being quartered. Now, two decades later, the Evangelical community has chosen to cling to the robes of a charlatan who pretends when it is advantageous, to pay lip service to the precepts of Christianity. Or at least the Christianity he heard in his younger days. Now he is happy to have his little cracker during those infrequent times when he attends a church service. He has abandoned all pretense at following marital vows of fidelity, but then again, he got a mulligan.

So the Faustian bargain has been struck, and the Evangelical Christians are reaping the benefits. They’ve gotten judicial nominations aplenty, and the vacancies within the court system that were prevented from being filled by the Republicans during Obama’s terms of office, are being stuffed with judicial candidates that are declared as unqualified. The liberal organization calling the candidates unqualified? None other than the American Bar Association, a hotbed of liberal activism.

What else have the Evangelical Christians received as their part of the bargain? Daily doses of the violation of the commandment against bearing false witness (lying) from their dear leader. The honor of being represented by a government that believes the worst of anyone who does not look like America in the 1950’s – white, male, and macho. They’ve received reinforcing messages that the rest of the world owes the US – owes us trading relationships that always favor the US (because we deserve it so!), owes us unilateral obedience when we complain about another country (but don’t say anything about abrogating multi-lateral relationships and treaties), owe us respect when we take action that is nearly universally decried in the United Nations. We’ve gone, in one single year, from a nation that was respected for our moral position and standing (whether we deserved it or not), to one that is now being actively and deservedly disrespected for our selfish and short-sighted policy pronouncements and our diplomacy via tweet.

But the vast majority of Trump’s Evangelical supporters won’t consider that their leader is the antithesis of a moral follower of Christ. No, instead he is the first adherent of the Church of Celebrity ever to hold high national political office inside of the US. And as such, he is remaking the moral code of the nation into one befitting this new religion. It is now, what’s in it for me, and how much can I take, and what can I get away with. Those are the precepts driving the actions of this administration.

Still, it does not seem to matter. What matters to many is that Trump speaks his unfiltered thoughts via twitter. He does not need any intermediary in order to shovel his best covfefe into the brains of his addled followers. They can judge the validity of his statements on their own. And why in the world would we ever need eloquence in the political sphere? Eloquence, like competence and expertise, is much overrated in this day and age. When anyone and everyone can state something as a fact, and dare the world to contradict it, why do we need universal standards of behavior? It only gets in the way of our agenda.

Normality and morality are being redefined before our eyes. I hope that the deviancy that Trump has brought to our national stage is transitory, and that we can regain our moral bearing and actually be a light unto the world again. You know, back when America was Great.

A Sad Case of Stockholm Syndrome

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The grizzled detective pondered the crime scene laid out before his eyes. He pushed back the brim of his hat, bent down, and reached out to touch the cooling body of one of the victims. He rolled the body over, and it was apparent that the victim had fallen upon his own sword. Same posture as all of the others who spread drying blood into the exquisite carpets of the cabinet room. The detective looked over to his assistant, who held a notebook and pen, awaiting the wisdom about to come from the veteran crime solver.

“It appears to be a severe case of Stockholm Syndrome,” said the detective. “Notice how all of these Cabinet Secretaries, Senators, and Congressmen, all managed to off themselves with what was available to them.” The detective pointed over to one of the victims, who obviously had a difficult time in offing himself. All he had was a letter opener, and it was clear that he had fallen repeatedly upon the less than sharp point until it pierced his heart.

The detective turned away from the scene in front of him in disgust. “We’d best go and take a look at the scene as it played out.” Fortunately for posterity’s sake, all of the meetings in the cabinet room were now televised live. The cameras ran unattended, which kept the lying media from having a presence in the room. The cabinet room’s new nickname was Soundstage 3, befitting the experience of the resident of the house. For the resident understood a good show, and slowly his administration became the highest profile reality TV show ever scripted. You can assume a regal posture if you only have to be on your best while the cameras are rolling.

The scene was cued up for the detective to peruse. At first, nothing was different from many of the previous meetings in this room where both cabinet members, and Republican members of the House and Senate gathered. They each took turns heaping unadulterated mounds of fetid praise upon the personage of the resident of the house. One after another, each speaker offered their undying gratitude towards the resident, the whole session an attempt at one-upmanship, where the trick was to employ the most cloying and excessive adjectives and lay them at the feet of the resident. The resident sat in his chair in the center of the gathering with his arms folded against his expansive torso, and occasionally favored a particularly exceptional offering with a bit of a nod and a slight upward twist of his mouth.

Finally, the last person offered up his praise. As befitted the established tradition, that was the Vice President, who set a new record for the number of times he compared the resident of the house with the greatest humans who had ever set foot upon the planet. He extended his own record for the number of times he declared his undying gratitude at having the opportunity to serve the resident. With that, the resident of the house uncrossed his arms, and began to enunciate the reason for the meeting.

“I was just in a meeting, they were telling me, it was impossible to get to 270, but we did it, a massive things even though there was no collusion, no collusion with the Russians, though the Democrats did have collusion, they got that dossier, they used it to spy on me, no way that we had collusion with the Russians, but those Democrats, they took Hillary’s e-mails and sent them to the server which they bleached. I mean, can you believe they poured bleach all over the server?” As he spoke, he picked up several ball bearings that were arranged in front of the resident, and began to turn them over and over in his hands.

He began to speak with more urgency. “Now, the Democrats want us to open our borders, want us to stop spending money for defense, they want us to surrender. SURRENDER!” He slammed his hand down on the table and the ball bearings scattered all over the table. Several people hurriedly chased after the rolling bearings, and gathered them and placed them back in front of the resident.”And there’s good people on both side, both sides, nothing wrong with being in favor of your race, those blacks have their own organizations.” He looked up and down the table, watching the exaggerated nodding of the heads of the meeting participants. He really had them in the palm of his hand. He looked down where his hand had found the ball bearings and was twisting them around, again and again.

“We don’t need those rapists, those criminals they are sending from their shitholes. No way they’ll ever want to go back to their mud huts, we need more Norwegians here. And we can make it happen. Now my people have told me of something that happened a long time ago – long ago. They wanted the people sent back over to Africa, to Liberia. That’s what we can do, get all of them sent back to Liberia or some other country over there. They won’t be taking a knee while our anthem is playing if they’re back home in Africa. We can do it!”

There was a stunned silence in the room. But slowly, a murmur began to emerge from the throats of the meeting participants. It swelled and was amplified as everyone joined the chant that became a coherent call. “We! Can! Do! It!” The chant echoed off of the walls, and soon even the staid Republicans were dancing around their chairs, arms linked as they circled around each other. The crowd was psyched. They were enraptured. They were prisoners of the resident, sharing in his delusions, unaware that what they had just committed their own political suicide. They had just been shown on live TV agreeing to a new proposal to forcibly re-segregate the country by expelling their fellow citizens.

There was one participant in the room who had thought this through. His voice called out to the resident. “Do you think maybe folks will think this is racist?”

The change that came over the resident’s face was startling. A flush of red colored his visage, and his mouth extended forward as spittle flew from his lips as he shouted. “How dare you! How dare you question my plan! My plan is the greatest plan ever made. I am the greatest! And who are you to question me? You all can kill yourselves for all I care. Come along, Mike.” The Vice President sprang to his feet and quickly followed the resident, who was storming out of the room. Soon afterwards, the cameras captured the images of the Cabinet secretaries, Senators, and members of the House all began to fall over themselves, searching for the tools to effect their own demise, which played on and on until there was no movement left in the room save for the slow spread of blood across the table and the rugs.

The detective turned off the replay of the scene, and turned towards his assistant. “I can remember when the resident started. There were Republicans who would stand up to him. They told him when his conduct was unacceptable. They claimed they’d never work with him. Then he won. And they slowly, slowly fell under his spell. You could see it with Graham. He’d been quoted as saying that he was a kook, was unqualified. But recently, he said the problem with the press was that they were calling him an unqualified kook. He’d been captured. It happened to all of them. They realized this was there one, best chance to implement their goals of cutting taxes, pleasing their donors. They never understood they were selling their souls in the exchange.” The detective stood up, and got ready to leave the room. “No point in investigating further. It was obvious that these prisoners grew to believe whole heartedly in his mission, so much so that they were willing to follow his off-hand suggestion to its logical conclusion.”

He left the room and the medical teams came in and started to remove the bodies inside of the cabinet room.

 

In Honor of Fire and Fury

Trump's world

I wish I had begun my blog in 2016 instead of 2017. That way, I would have been able to claim ownership of this parody of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, by the band.  I wrote it in July of 2016. But since the topic of the parody just won’t get out of the news, I am posting it now, in honor of the new book by Michael Wolff. I won’t claim complete prescience, but …..

Donald Trump is the name, and I ran to be President,

Till reality set in, and I learned what that job meant,

I was tweeting up a storm, scoring bigly, worried not ’bout form

Told that I was going to fall, it’s a thing I remember not at all

 

The night they drove the Donald mad, and all the bells were ringing

The night they drove the Donald mad, and all the people were singing, they went

What were we thinking of, he’s loony, and incompetent

 

Back with my wife in Trump tower, and I showed her my huge hands

She say “Donald, run for office, there’s no one can beat your stands”

Now I possess the candidacy, and I don’t care if Ryan falls from a tree,

You don’t diss the Don, you pay homage instead,

But I can’t stand that they call me sick in the head

 

The night they drove the Donald mad, and all the bells were ringing

The night they drove the Donald mad, and all the people were singing, they went

What were we thinking of, he’s loony, and incompetent

 

Call me ignorant of founding texts, I will trash your wife,

Call me poor as a businessman, I will ruin your life,

I’m no loser, I’m hugely big, and Pocahontas, I see you are a pig

Can’t wait till I’ve got the button to press,

You will see those losers in distress

 

The night they drove the Donald mad, and all the bells were ringing

The night they drove the Donald mad, and all the people were singing, they went

What were we thinking of, he’s loony, and incompetent

 

Had Enough Winning?

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You’re a mean one, Mr. Trump

You really want to steal

You are twitty as a tweeter, you just want to cop a feel, Mr. Trump

You’re a bad example with no sex appeal!

A French philosopher of the 18th century, Joseph de Maistre, created the quote for our times. “Every nation gets the government it deserves”. If that statement is correct, what does it say for the United States that we have ended up with two competing parties in Congress who see only evil in the opposition, and will not ever compromise with the enemy. Then add to the top of this noxious mess a flippant amateur provocateur who believes whatever image was shown to him on the TV during the past 5 minutes. To me, it says that we’ve arrived at the perfect reflection of the American character.

You’re a monster, Mr. Trump

Your soul’s a lump of coal

Your lies ooze out like butter, your conscience is a black hole, Mr. Trump

I wouldn’t trust you with a nuclear code at your control!

George Orwell was incredibly prescient. “War is Peace, and Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength.  For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable – what then?” The current administration clearly states its belief in alternate facts. Who cares if photographic evidence shows his inauguration crowd was smaller than Obama’s? Fake news! What does it matter if the President tweets videos that have been debunked because they fit his preconceived idea of the enemy! It’s not the videos that are important, it is the threat that they represent. So much falsity being slathered upon the national sandwich, day in, day out. And still his unthinking supporters celebrate each put down of the elite, reveling in their strong ignorance that sustains their belief in their dear leader.

You’re a foul one, Mr. Trump

Your hair is an orange pile

Your support has been expressed for an accused pedophile, Mr. Trump

Given a choice between the two of you, I’d curl up in a ball of denial!

Donald Trump has succeeded in establishing an agenda for his peers. Forget the pledges of the campaign, where he promised to sustain and never cut the programs depended upon by his supporters. Forget his pledge to give Americans really, really good health care. “It’ll be better health care, much better, for less money.” Then he abdicated his power of the bully pulpit to the machinations of the Republicans in Congress who tried to demolish all aspects of the Affordable Care Act and replace it with an ersatz version that would enable the reestablishment of inadequate insurance plans whose only benefit was a lower premium cost. He became fixated upon the prospect of giving the American people the most massive tax cut in history, only to again delegate all details to the slim Republican majority in Congress. Their baby, being birthed through a c-section since they can’t afford the time for a normal delivery, showers the GOP donor class with huge windfalls, while leaving very little golden shower to tinkle on the normal taxpayers of this nation. But to hear the cheerleaders in Congress, the rocket fuel given to the economy will cause economic pyrotechnics to stimulate the US economy in an orgy of growth. As far as trickle-down economics go, fool me once, shame on you (Reagan tax cuts). Fool me twice, shame on me (GWB tax cuts). Fool me 3 times, what the hell is going on here anyway?

You’re a vile one, Mr. Trump

You won’t even leave a crumb

You take thousands from your students while considering them dumb, Mr. Trump

The three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote

“Skim, scam, scum”!

One campaign pledge Donald Trump made has been fulfilled. He has upset the order in Washington. In so doing, he has revealed that much of the overhead of the Federal Government really is needed in order to prevent chaos from overwhelming this nation. Through his unmitigated folly in denigrating the State Department, and in attempting to ghost this agency by neglecting to nominate diplomats, we are now celebrating all of the winning we are doing in international affairs. North Korea has been pacified by the bellicosity of the fire and fury style unleashed against them. Saudi Arabia has settled long-term issues with its neighbors Qatar and Yemen. Our long-time allies in Europe are hailing the improvement in relations with Washington after the years of neglect from previous administrations. Oh, I’m sorry, I thought today was opposite day.

You’re a rotter, Mr. Trump

You love to share weird plots

You deny that you’ll get richer but we connect the dots, Mr. Trump

Your soul is an appalling mixture of conceit shot through with hypocrisy,

Vanity, and insecurity all mangled up in tangled up knots!

Now it’s been more than a year since the election. The true believers see only unsullied fulfillment of their dreams, though their leader has turned their dreams into nightmares. Still, they cannot see through their Fox induced haze to notice that not only is the Emperor buck naked, he’s leading a parade of those who are taking off their clothes to follow his example. Meanwhile, those of us who use objective criteria to analyze performance, are concerned that the inconsistency, the depravity, and the rashness of our leader will end up destroying our democracy and will result in mass loss of life due to the wars he will call forth. Not even the Greeks could imagine a tragedy of such immense proportion due to hubris. May we live in interesting times.

We’ll let Mr. Geisel have the last set of words.

You nauseate me, Mr. Trump

With a nauseous super “naus”!

You’re a crooked dirty jockey and you drive a crooked hoss, Mr. Trump

You’re a three decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce!

 

You’ve Been Had!

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A bill of goods. That is what this nation has been sold by the person of the current President of the US. We’ve been deceived, swindled, and taken advantage of by the administration as pledge after pledge has been negated by the actions taken by this President and his henchmen. And yet, his loyal followers hold out their bowls, and plead, “Please, sir, may I have some more?”

How have we been deceived? Let’s examine a few areas where the actions of the President after inauguration are in complete contradiction to the pledges made during the campaign. First, let’s tackle the series of statements he made about the obscene influence of Goldman Sachs upon his opponents in the primary and general election. In January 2016, Donald Trump declared Ted Cruz to be under the control of Goldman Sachs, due to a million dollar loan Cruz had obtained from the bank, but hadn’t disclosed on a financial disclosure form. That was followed by Donald Trump declaring that Heidi Cruz, Ted’s wife, was also complicit and a creature of Wall Street since she was also employed by Goldman Sachs. This was followed by the general election, where we were treated to the image of Donald Trump berating Hillary Clinton for being paid for speeches to Goldman Sachs prior to her run for the presidency.

So, good then. One would imagine that the administration of Donald Trump would be devoid of the evil influence of Goldman Sachs, since it was integral to the efforts to destroy this country’s economic might through its globalization efforts. Let’s check the record:

Steve Bannon – Chief strategist. Former Goldman Sachs banker, left the organization in 1990 as a vice president.

Steve Mnuchin – Secretary of the Treasury. Goldman Sachs banker for 17 years, left as Chief Information Officer in 2002 before forming various hedge funds and purchasing IndyMac bank in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008.

Gary Cohn – Director of the National Economic Council. Served as Chief Operating Officer for Goldman Sachs from 2006 until his appointment in 2017.

We could go on with links with the underlings in the administration who came directly from Goldman Sachs, but this should suffice to show that instead of purging the evil Wall Street influence from the administration, this President has infused fresh banking blood into the halls of government agencies where the levers of power are rigged to favor the wealthy instead of the typical Trump voter. You’ve been had!

Ok, then, maybe Donald Trump wasn’t able to accomplish his campaign goals of ridding the swamp of its evil banker’s mantle. Let’s look at another promise of this President, to hire only the best people for positions in his administration.

“I’m going to surround myself only with the best and most serious people,” he told Robert Costa in a phone interview at the time. “We want top of the line professionals.” This quote was from a  Sept. 2016 story in the Washington Post referencing an August 2016 interview. In campaign speech after speech, Trump boasted about knowing the best people and hiring only the best.

So how is this pledge working out? Well, splendidly, if your criteria is shortness of time within a position because one or more of these best people just didn’t work out. Let’s look at a few of the truly inept people that Donald Trump hired, only to busify them (busify – the act of throwing someone under the bus) within a few weeks or months of hiring.

Michael Flynn – the poster child for a Trump pick. Even while working on the campaign and after the election, this extreme version of incompetence was working with foreign players to enrich himself. When caught lying to the Vice President, his last lifeline was spent and he had to forfeit his National Security Advisor post

Tom Price – Supposedly his prescient knowledge of stock movements in a certain medical device stock had nothing to do with his position in the House as he introduced an act after the stock purchase that would have greatly enriched the company whose stock he had purchased. No, that type of dealing would have been welcome in the company of billionaires and wanna-be billionaires. Tom’s fatal flaw was having a predilection for chartered private jets that even the Trump administration could not stomach, after bills for hundreds of thousands of dollars emerged in the press. He was forced to leave his position as head of Health and Human Services.

Anthony Scaramucci – Mooch, we barely knew ye. Your tenure as the White House Director of Communications ended before it officially began. Over two weeks before he would have been sworn in, he was forced to not officially become the Director after giving an interview to a New Yorker reporter where he castigated several members of the administration in, shall we say, rather colorful language. One could make the case that he was actually communicating the occupant of the oval office’s feelings extremely well, since the targets of his language (Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon) were forced to leave White House employ shortly after the interview. Still, getting fired before you actually began the job represents a new peak in the (in)competence of Trump officials.

Sam Clovis – when you have a government agency that is responsible for billions of dollars in scientific research, involving the safety and integrity of the food supply, whom would you choose to lead this technically demanding position? Why, a former radio talk show host and a Doctor of Public Administration who happened to be the co-chairman of Trump’s campaign, of course. The fallacy of having a non-scientist appointed to a key scientific post never came to fruition, though. Unfortunately for Sam, he became associated with the self-admitted felon, George Papadopoulos. Sam becomes just another example of the best people that Donald Trump was able to attract.

Brett Talley – a name you may not yet be familiar with, but certainly a nominee for this august group of unqualified individuals appointed to government positions by Donald Trump. This individual has been nominated as a judge in the middle district of Alabama, and he has the unique qualifications of never having taken part in a trial, either as a judge, attorney, plaintiff, or defendant. Thus he is a complete tabula rasa, able to perform judicial duties without any preconceived notions. That must be why the American Bar Association gave Brett a rating of Not Qualified to be a judge. But did that matter to Donald Trump? No, especially since Brett’s wife is the chief of staff to the White House Counsel. Who needs stinkin’ qualifications when you’ve got the insiders track to the Donald’s ear? Just think, he may end up ruling over litigation affecting Roy Moore in the future.

 

Well, that’s just a partial listing of those folks who are excellent examples of “the best and most serious people” that Donald Trump pledged to attract to his service. We could give many more examples but space and time limitations prevent this.

To those who are Trump supporters, this is only the very first listing of the ways in which you’ve been had. There are many more examples of where Trump’s campaign pledges about helping the forgotten citizens have been turned on their head, and the policies being followed are harming the forgotten citizens, while enriching Trump’s true social class, the 0.01% club. This, the first missive in a series of posts about this administration, examines some of the personnel decisions that reflect the abysmal performance of our current President. You’ve Been Had!

 

Confused, not Dazed

Trump's world

I’m confused. I always thought sincerity and empathy were two highly-valued traits in our leadership. I thought that honesty, devotion to duty, personal sacrifice for our country, and having a shared love of country was honorable and desirable. But then I encounter the brave new world of politics in the post-reality environment we now find ourselves in, and I wonder how we have migrated so far off of the tracks.

I’m confused. I thought overt racism and tiki-torch marches in favor of white nationalism was a relic of the past in this and in other countries. I believed that we were evolving into becoming one human race, instead of fragmenting ourselves into artificial divides based upon minor genetic differences. Now I see moral equivalence declared between liberal protestors, and the followers of Richard Spencer. I see the white race proclaimed as being the savior of the human race, since obviously no other race has ever made any contribution to civilization.

I’m confused. I thought our culture had long gotten past the point where women had validated their worth to society, past the point where they were viewed as merely eye candy and were subject to being considered as the property of their alpha males. I thought that women in our country had earned the right to govern their own reproductive processes without governmental coercion. But now I see misogyny celebrated, declared to be “not politically correct” and exclaimed with adulation, while at the same time women’s rights to control their own body are dying the death of a thousand legislative cuts at the hands of males who ask their mistresses to get an abortion because a pregnancy would not be convenient to the male legislator.

I’m confused. I thought with the near total collapse of communism, that would enable the world to devote some of the excessive expenditures for armaments and armies into works to benefit the mass of humanity. I believed that beating swords into plowshares was good for humanity. I didn’t expect to see ever increasing funding for more and more complex weapons systems, and I didn’t expect to see a call for a return to the nuclear weapon level of the 1970’s.

I’m confused. I thought with the rapid advances in technology and communications, fostered by advances in science, we would be enabled to have a shared vision of reality as defined through science. But now we see alternative facts extolled even though objective reality denies their existence. We see individuals proclaim their right to their own reality, even though that reality may in fact cause risk to their own families and to society (anti-vaccines). We see legislative mandates to “teach the controversy” of evolution when there is no controversy there. We see the denial of all of the evidence of a warming world, and we declare that since trace gases in our atmosphere are such a tiny fraction, there is no way they can influence climate.

I’m confused. I thought Evangelical Christians took a firm moral stand against greed, and vanity, and lust, and unchastity, and wrath, and pride. Yet when presented with a candidate who embodies these traits wholly and completely, they unhesitatingly supported him in the Presidential election. This in support of someone whose familiarity with Christian rituals ended with the death of Norman Vincent Peale, and someone who enjoys only having his little wine and little cracker when at a service.

I’m confused. I thought this country had made substantial improvements in our environment from the days of my youth, when rivers caught fire, and soot-based smog choked the life out of unfortunate people in Pennsylvania (actually before my time). I thought that the return of the bald eagles represented the triumph of wise stewardship of the earth, and I looked forward to exporting these environmental improvements to other countries through provisions in trade pacts. But now I see wholesale and rapid abandonment of environmental progress and trade pacts, all in the name of increasing profits for business (and maybe reclaiming jobs until dwindling resources disappear).

I’m confused. I’ve heard the Republican drumbeats calling out the evils of deficits, and the need to ensure austerity in order to prevent the collapse of our government into a pile of indebted rubble. I’ve seen balanced budgets at the Federal level only once in my lifetime, under a Democratic administration. Yet I see the Republican’s gleefully hop onto a runaway train of tax cuts, aimed not at reforming our tax system, but instead swelling the assets of the top 1% while tossing animal crackers to the masses in order to persuade them of the generosity of their tax cut.

I’m confused. I thought leaders were those who were able to display the trait of reasonableness, and who were able to enunciate the principles for which they stand. I thought they would engage the nation and the legislators with cogent thoughts and well-reasoned opinions. But now I see what passes for Presidential prose as 140-character cartoon bubbles, devoid of depth, internally inconsistent, and lacking in human sensitivity. I see wrath-filled tweets sent during hours when most should be sleeping. I see covfefe extolled as gospel emanating from the fingers of the tweeter-in-chief.

I’m confused. I thought that even with the ongoing decline in educational and moral standards of this country, there was no way the people of this nation would elect a charlatan and singularly vile representative of humanity as its President. I was wrong.

 

Some will say that this commentary represents a sense of denial about the election. Let me say, no, it does not. I see the election of Donald Trump as the last stand of those who are unable to adjust to a changing world. This President has lived up to every one of my expectations of his behavior and policies. I just didn’t realize the pain that the embodiment of his misguided policies would cause as the administration lurches from one self-induced crisis to another, all the while denying there are any problems with their agenda (and besides, it’s all McConnell’s fault). My sincere hope is that for those who still believe that Donald Trump is working for the benefit of any other than the billionaire class, I hope they come to their senses and realize that Donald Trump has a singular achievement that may never be duplicated. He committed the greatest con job ever on the citizens of the US.

The Decline and Fall of Which Empire?

Nebraska stadium

Empires die, if they are lucky, with a whimper, not a bang. On October 14, 2017, Memorial Stadium in Lincoln Nebraska let out a huge whimper. On that night, the team representing the University of Nebraska laid down and allowed Ohio State to eviscerate the Husker’s defense. Meanwhile, the Ohio State defense smothered the offense, eventually allowing meaningless second half touchdowns, but shutting out the home team throughout the first half while amassing a 35 point total when they were not stopped once. Five possessions, five scoring drives.

The whimper was heard in the second quarter. A tradition of Nebraska football is that fans purchase red helium balloons, and release them when the first score happens for the home team. In the middle of the second quarter, the Huskers gained their second first down of the game. First a trickle, then a flood of balloons started to dance in the strong north wind, signifying the depression that the fans felt due to the humiliation they were witnessing.

At half time, the wind picked up considerably. The huge American flag flying over the north stadium snapped loudly in the breeze as it stood straight out as if starched. The noise of the wind muffled the whimper being sounded by the hordes of fans filing down out of the stands, and eventually out of the stadium to face the cold strong wind. I joined the exiting throngs along with my brother’s family.

As we wound our way back through the campus, we heard the roar of the stadium at our back as the team managed to strike with a lone long touchdown pass. But nothing could disguise the utter demolition of a team with a proud history by one of the few teams with even a prouder history. That pride has shown itself through the 55 years of consecutive sell-outs of the stadium, longest sell-out streak ever in either college or pro sports. If the performance of the team continues to match that of the last two games, even that tattered remnant of empire will fade away, if not this year then certainly next season. But the rise and fall of a college football empire will affect only a small fraction of the population of this country, and does not represent an existential crisis.

Empires do have a finite life. Empires fade when the cost of maintaining the empire exceeds the tribute brought in. They may be overthrown from without, or within. But until this year, I never heard of an empire being overthrown by its own government. With its initial effort, the new President withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership trade treaty. That treaty, intended to align nations in the Pacific watershed away from the growing maw of China, was a symbol of the American empire of commercial dominance. However, the new administration believes all trade agreements are win/lose propositions, and that the verdict of history is that the US has lost with all of its trade agreements. What this administration does not realize is that the US has used its position as the owner of the global reserve currency to enable this country to run both substantial trade deficits and Federal governmental deficits. The reserve currency is the symbol of the American empire, since it ensures demand for US dollars and US debt instruments. Imagine what the cost of imported goods would be if the US dollar suddenly was not required for international transactions?

Yet the current administration ignores these macroeconomic factors, arguing instead that all of our trading partners are taking advantage of us since we do run trade deficits. This administration believes that if we just pull back from international engagements, trans-national agreements, and treaties, we will be able to set our own trade terms and retreat into a world of US sourced products that fulfill all of the nation’s needs.

The effects of this near-sighted policy is already making itself felt. China is pressing Saudi Arabia to accept yuan as a mode of payment for its oil imports. When that happens, look for other countries to follow suit and then the whole house of cards propping up the US economy will be left teetering in mid-air. Other signs of the US ceding its international role are showing with Europe turning inward as the US President disparages NATO and other treaty obligations. A fundamental misreading of the Iran nuclear treaty shows that this administration does not recognize the treaty as only having jurisdiction over nuclear matters. No, this administration insists that Iran is not adhering to the spirit of the treaty by invoking factors that were never included in the treaty.

And then there is the elephant in the room (sorry, Republicans, you didn’t make the cut). How do you solve a problem like Kim Jong-un? Apparently, this President believes that intimidation and crude insults trump all other choices, like, maybe diplomacy? After all, intimidation and crude insults helped him triumph over all of the other prospective Republican candidates. Why wouldn’t the same tactics work with the still-young heir to the North Korean political dynasty? Everyone fears the US military!  We’re invincible (but we must do something about the appalling lack of nuclear weaponry. What have we been doing since the 1970’s anyhow?). No, North Korea is not a problem you can bluster your way through.

The history of the US empire post WWII took a wrong turn after the end of the cold war. Instead of using the opportunity to begin limited withdrawal of US forces from the excessive number of bases we maintain overseas, we felt the need to expand our footprint. The events of September 2001 enabled the US to go even further to increase our presence throughout the world, and all in the name of the war on terror. We should pursue reductions in bases and overseas presence of our military. It now is viewed as divisive across the world instead of being a soothing presence. But with an administration whose head decries diplomacy, and threatens fire and fury, do not look for this empire to go gently into that dark night.

When you have an empire replete with a naked emperor, and simpering sycophants in his party who still fear the tweet of doom, nothing good will happen. I can only wish that the American Empire does not go out with a bang. Yet I fear that, for once, cooler heads will not prevail, and we will find ourselves in a conflict with unimaginable casualties, and unprecedented global consequences.

Swallowtail Chaos

swallowtail-butterfly-364329__340

You have to wonder. Does former President Obama rue the roasting he gave to Donald Trump at the 2011 White House Correspondent’s Dinner? Was that the final motivation that a fragile yet swollen ego required to forge the decision to go all in on a future run for the Presidency? Was the public humiliation of Donald Trump the equivalent of the butterfly flapping it’s wings, magnifying its effects through chaos, and eventually resulting in the hurricane which now envelops us?

No, this one single event did not trigger the madness. Donald Trump had for decades revealed himself to be a small-time hustler who used the modern media environment to peddle his brand image. Each media conquest fed that ego, as he gained the fawning attention of the B-list celebrities who tried to resuscitate their brands by playing as apprentices. That was one reason why the jabs at the Correspondent’s dinner hurt so much – they were true, and the joking reference to decisions as to who to fire on the show would cause President Obama to spend sleepless nights tore at the shredded remnants of Donald Trump’s psyche. And all the while, the President knew that the operation to take out Osama Bin Laden was taking shape during the dinner.

All that Donald Trump could perceive at that moment was that he was once more, not a true member of the club. He was an object of ridicule. They weren’t laughing with him, they were laughing at him. You can tell from the stern look on his face as he faced his taunters from the podium. He was plotting his revenge. And to the dismay of those who prefer peace to fire and fury, he now is fulfilling that primal urge.

We can all ponder the madness of the electorate in 2015 and 2016 as this shallow ideologue harangued his campaign rallies, providing the spark for the disaffected of the nation to strike back at all of the misery caused by the elites. No one would ever mistake Donald Trump as an elite figure. His boorish manners, his stunted vocabulary, his appeal to the baser emotions of his core of supporters, all of these tactics showed his adoring fans that HE was one of THEM! And they lapped it up – calling out “Lock Her Up!”, turning on the press as he called them “LYING”. No, it is not surprising that Donald has kept up with a need to feed off of crowds at rallies, far away from any election. The emotion that feeds him also feeds his crowds, making them feel real emotions and allowing them to imbibe in the energy of the mob. Donald Trump’s success came from his ability to tap into this inchoate dissatisfaction with the world, and enabled him to ride the wave of anger his movement unleashed.

The same wave of anger has swelled in many nations at this time. Europe has a multitude of movements where the tendency is to pull inward, take care of those most like us, and show hatred for all who are different. Donald Trump is the manifestation of this impulse in the US. Unfortunately for all of the citizens of the world, he is the manifestation who has the accumulated power of the greatest military force in the world’s history at his beck and call. And thus we were treated to the image of President Trump, flanked by almost exclusively men in uniform and their women, as he referred to a gathering as the “Calm before the storm.” This is from the President who seems incapable of serious reflection, preferring instead to send out 140 character instruments of mass covfefe.

The nuclear response capability of the US is stuck back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, where rapidity of response would be required to ensure that our forces were unleashed before the incoming volleys from our prime adversary could land and take out our ability to retaliate. The premise was that there was a confirmed attack underway, and this speed in response was absolutely required. Thus, there are deliberately very few barriers in place between the time that a President determines nuclear response is required, and that response being activated. Now we have a President of the United States who has extremely poor impulse control, who internalizes any criticism as disloyalty to the nation (and himself), and who exhibits zero unscripted empathy (paper towels, anyone?). This President could unilaterally decide to plunge the world into nuclear destruction.  What could possibly go wrong?

Meanwhile, this President is exacting his revenge upon the legacy of his predecessor. Witness his pitiful attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Time and time again, he praised the latest Republican attempt as a wonderful plan, only to back away and claim it was a hateful plan once it failed to run the legislative gauntlet. He had zero input into these plans. Their only redeeming virtue in his mind was that they would eliminate that hated plan that Obama created.

So maybe it isn’t possible to directly delete the ACA via a frontal attack. Throw up administrative barriers to ensure that it fails. Anything to remove the legacy of that horrible president, who after all wasn’t born in the US. Where else can we undermine his actions? Of course, trade and treaties. Forget whether they are in the interest of the US, they were part of the legacy of that hated predecessor. Toss them out! And yes, any of the environmental actions taken during the last 8 years? Cease their enforcement, rescind their authority, and unleash a flood of fossil fuels to fill gas tanks for our nation.

Yes, one wonders whether President Obama wishes to apologize for his jibes and jabs during the 2011 Correspondent’s Dinner. His partner at the dais Seth Myers did apologize for his part in the taunting of Trump that night. Apologized for assisting in unleashing this madman on the nation. Of all of the symbols of President Obama’s legacy, it may be that steeling Donald Trump’s quest for revenge may be the most significant, if unintended, consequence.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Trump's world

 

Of course we knew it would work out well. Having our bully-in-chief in person addressing the UN General Assembly couldn’t possibly have any downside, could it? No, it went exactly as I expected. Vitriol was unleashed, the base went wild, and the Donald smiled his happy place smile.

I’m reminded of a paraphrase of one of my favorite movie lines from the Treasure of the Sierra Madre. “Diplomats? We don’t need no steenkin’ diplomats!” Tensions between the US and North Korea keep growing, yet as of today, we do not have a new ambassador in place in South Korea. The last headline I saw in late August indicated that Victor Cha would be named as that ambassador, but I do not see an official announcement, nor have there been Congressional hearings scheduled for this position. This inexcusable failure to staff one of the most critical diplomatic positions is typical of the complete and utter disorganization of the Trump administration, and the disdain that this administration holds for all solutions diplomatic.

One wonders what opinions our former Presidents would have of this pathetic excuse for a leader. I can just see Teddy Roosevelt preparing to lift up his big stick to smite the person who is turning his famous aphorism about speaking softly on its head. And still, his base clamors for more baseness to chastise the coastal elites. More blasphemy for the international order to digest. The world watches as the US prepares to exit from any active role in world affairs – except, you know, to threaten other nations with complete and total annihilation.

I see the writings of his supporters. They are ecstatic as they consider how good of a job he is doing at draining the swamp. They relish the digs at those the base considers as their oppressors, cheering at the discomfort of those who are victimized by the cruelty inflicted by those whose racism has been unleashed through the phenomena of Trumpism. Personally, at this time, I think many of this President’s base are on acid.

What the election of Donald Trump as President has unleashed is the virulent strain of nativism and racism that long simmered beneath the surface in the US. President Obama started the fermentation of this strain merely by being non-white. His actions were seen through a lens of racial intentions, and he was viewed as being extremely racially divisive. The very thought that someone of mixed racial background would rise through his own merit and intelligence to occupy the presidency enervated those who believed that racial policy was a win/lose phenomena. If a non-white won, the white race lost.

Donald Trump has enabled those who hold racist and anti-intellectual, anti-elitist positions to crawl out from under the rocks and spew their venom indiscriminately. I see it on internet bulletin boards where references to the Protocols of Zion are mixed with diatribes against all blacks. I see it in the ongoing series of campaign rallies that Donald Trump uses to energize himself by wrapping himself in a mantle of adulation, while decrying the media as being fake. The echoes of the Nuremberg rallies resonate in each Trump rally. The only thing missing is a uniform dress code for his supporters to make the analogy complete (MAGA hats are just not enough of a fashion statement).

The anti-intellectual bent of this administration is alarming. In one department (USDA), Politico has just published the results of their reviews of nominees for positions within the agency. Here is the link to the article: http://www.politico.com/story/2017/09/21/trump-agriculture-department-usda-campaign-workers-242951    What Politico reveals is that a majority of the appointees may lack any Agricultural background or knowledge, but that lack is off-set by their personal loyalty to Donald Trump. Over half of the resumes reviewed by Politico showed Trump campaign experience as their most relevant qualification.  Actual knowledge of a subject matter just isn’t relevant in order to obtain a lucrative position in Trump world. It seems it is more of a disadvantage.

Scientific expertise is being especially dishonored. As of late September, President Trump has not named a science advisor. Unfortunately, in that absence of action, he is following in the footsteps of many previous Republican presidents. In his abbreviated second term in office, President Nixon abolished the position and the attendant committee that serves to provide guidance to the administration on scientific affairs. Both Presidents Reagan and President George W. Bush took actions that minimized the effectiveness of the advisory position. Why this reluctance to consider science as integral to policy? Probably because scientists have this peculiar habit of speaking truth to power, letting politicians know that their preferred policies are scientifically unfeasible, or will cause adverse consequences. See anthropogenic global warming.

So if you don’t care about science, and don’t believe that science is the engine that grows the economy, you punish the departments that rely upon scientists. Huge budget cuts are prescribed by the Trump administration for basic research and for the National Institute of Health. Of course, all funding that relates to climate monitoring is unnecessary, since it is proven that man cannot affect the climate (according to the Trumpistas). EPA? Overreach. Slash its budget by 30%, then drown it in the bathtub.

Just to show that there’s no hard feelings from the Trump administration, other government functions are severely hamstrung. The State Department takes the largest hit, with a 30% reduction in proposed funding. The administration is in effect implementing its objectives by simply not proposing nominees to many positions previously staffed in former administrations. If no one is working there, you don’t have to pay for their salaries. Voila! A fait accompli in reducing government spending.

And then there’s the holy grail of Republicanism, the dismantling of Federal government programs to support the people of the United States. Repeal and Replace is the mantra that was chanted by all card-carrying Republican politicians. Given the complete reins to power in the Federal government, they have so far proven incompetent in accomplishing their stated number one objective. Now in this next week we face one more spasm of Senatorial action aimed at undoing the previous administration’s signature accomplishment. It may be an unholy alliance of those who believe Graham-Cassidy is still too generous and a few Republican Senators who understand the severe implications of removing health care insurance from tens of millions, that alliance may be enough to derail this last best chance of throwing the health industry into chaos.

You see, Republicans have never ever been in favor of Medicaid. Ever since it was proposed by the known socialist Lyndon Johnson, it has been viewed as an affront to each and every Republican politician. The bills to end the ACA are the Trojan horse that will enable the death of Medicaid. It may take a decade to accomplish its goal, but the equine statue may actually be admitted behind the walls of government if only 50 Senators can scramble inside.

Meanwhile, the drumbeat of the Russia probe is starting to throb within the halls of the White House. The denials of any knowledge of, or business dealings of the Trump campaign and Trump family members with Russia or Russians always rang hollow. Now the Mueller investigation is encircling the White House, leaving enough investigative breadcrumbs in place for outsiders to discern his methodology. As reported this week, with the invasive search at Paul Manafort’s house, the investigation is behaving more like it is pursuing an organized crime family instead of a typical white collar criminal. Bill Moyers has documented a timeline showing the interactions of the Trump organization with Russia and Russians dating back decades. See this for more information on those ties that the family just keeps on forgetting:

http://billmoyers.com/story/trump-russia-timeline/

Still, the resilience of the Trump base to refuse to acknowledge the veracity of any failings of their dear leader keeps on plugging along. One of the truly insightful things that Donald Trump ever said was his claim that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and he wouldn’t lose voters. If an indictment does issue from Robert Mueller, and impeachment follows, the base of Donald Trump will not go gentle into that good night. Instead, they will rage, rage at the dying of the light.